Sales Skills Every Salesperson Should Master

9 min read
Oct 5, 2015
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Sales skills

You probably caught yourself thinking that star sales performers were born to do it. I’m not surprised. When you look at them selling seems so easy as if almost anyone could do it. But once you try it, turns out it’s everything but easy. Why? Because the best ones in sales have practiced their skills for years until they mastered them.

Since 1984 Todd Cohen coached and led sales teams to deliver more than $500 million in revenue for leading companies, some of which includes Xerox, Gartner Group, Thomson–Reuters and Pensare. Todd identified the sales skills in four different areas: personal, relational, professional and return on investment.
I’ll discuss all of them.


Personal selling skills

Personal skills define who we are as individuals. These skills allow salespeople to develop the relational skills that are critical to creating sales culture and affecting successful sales campaigns.

Innate desire to sell

It works like a mirror. The attitude you give out to a customer is the same attitude you will get back. If you love to sell, customers love you back. If you don’t like what you do, customers can see it, and they’re less likely to buy from you. Both attitudes are easily reflected in the sales scores.


Even if you have the innate desire to sell, it doesn’t mean you’re passionate about it. Passion is tangible and customers and your colleagues can feel it when they’re around you.
It also means that you’re engaged and it’s reflected in the value you bring to your customers.


High energy level won’t guarantee you high sales scores, but low energy won’t help you for sure. Emotions are contagious and bringing the right energy to work affects your team’s morale. So, bring it!

Self – motivation

Just like you need a daily dose of coffee to start off your day, you need a daily dose of motivation to keep you going in the long term. Successful salespeople are able to overcome obstacles that occur on their way and they close the deal. If you want to do that you need to be aware of what drives you to sell. Why are you in this business? According to Todd Cohen:

If you know why you are in sales, you become energetic and passionate, and you begin to display other characteristics of a good salesperson. When passionate about yourself, you extend that passion to your work.


It takes years to build trust and only seconds to break it. Credibility is the basis of doing business. The best salespeople are honest. They build trust, and do their best not to breach it. It also includes acknowledging mistakes and not blaming others.


Relational skills

Relational skills define how we handle ourselves as individuals and form relationships with others. You need those skills to understand customers and their needs.


Genuine humility is a strength that leads to success. People are more likely to buy from real, modest people who put a heart into their job. Arrogance doesn’t sell, confidence does.


Confident salesperson possess a natural comfort in dealing with others.
Customers like to work with confident people, because they place a higher level of trust in them. The key to boost confidence level is to be comfortable with yourself, be engaged in the company you work for and believe in the product you sell. According to Todd:

Great sales people create success when they are comfortable with their skills and knowledge, while simultaneously understanding their limitations and leveraging their strengths.

Ego control

An oversized ego alienates you from your customers and co–workers, making it hard to create a collaborative environment. So don’t be too impressed with your own results.
Never let your ego be bigger than your skill set.

Relationship – Building

It’s much easier to buy from people we trust. To build trust, a salesperson needs to invest time in creating a relationship with a customer. Closing a sale based on trust and a good relationship opens new opportunities to successful sales in the future.

Selling is frequently less about products and solutions and more about the relationships and trust that have been established. You must create success through solid relationships and trust. These elements become your support system for tomorrow’s sales.

In sales people often think they need to be like Wolf of Wall Street to make sales. You know, an agressive person who will do whatever it takes to win sales. The truth is, sales is more about creating relationships, educating prospects and answering questions. Read 7 steps to mastering the sales process.


Building great relationships allows you to communicate easily with other teams in your company in order to close the deal. Once your product becomes more complex you may want to use their expertise.


Many of us love to hear ourselves talk. Other people? Not so much. If you’re willing to achieve success, don’t be a salesperson who talks without a break. You’re only repeating what you already know. When you listen, you can learn more about customers, their problems and their pain points that need to be solved.

Note: It’s easier to listen if you have planned a list of questions to ask before you go to the meeting or into the sales call. This way you can concentrate on listening to the customer, rather than thinking about the next question to ask.


Sometimes deals take time. And patience is not about just waiting, it’s about being able to keep a positive attitude during a sales process, while waiting. One push too much and a customer can resign. With too much pressure, you’re not only killing your deal but your relationship as well. So don’t rush it. Let your deal develop, mature and only then close it.

Personal responsibility

Personal responsibility is a component of all the above skills. You are the only person responsible for your success. Not your boss, not your wife, just you. Your image, power, energy, the desire to sell and listening bring you closer to success.


Professional selling skills

Professional business skills are expressed in planning, defining goals and measuring achievements towards these goals. You use them to help others achieve their business goals.

Business acumen

When you lose your cool and emotions take control, you can’t see the situation straight. You lose your business “eye” and can’t assess the situation from all angles, like: is it a good deal for you? Is your potential customer’s company in a good shape? As a salesperson you need to work on your state of mind in order to keep your cool. An objective view allows you to asses the sales opportunity as a business decision.

Build your business plan and define required activity

Whatever goals you have, you need a plan to achieve them. Successful salespeople know that even the best persuasion techniques work better with some planning behind them. Your plan should include all activities that you need to take along the way. Calls, emails, demos? How many of them do you need? When exactly in the sales cycle should they happen? Put a lot of effort on preparing that. But don’t stick rigidly to the plan. Adjust the plan to the situation.


Competitive sales people know exactly their industry, the competition and its offers. They are aware of customers specific needs (visible and underlying). That's how they know which products are the best choice for the customer.

Ask for the order

You and a customer got to the point where a buying decision can be made, but you haven’t closed the deal. Review each step you made. Does the customer know your product enough? If so, have you asked for the order?

Asking for the order is a natural part of the sales conversation. Do not delay asking for it due to fear of a refusal. Customer refusal can actually lead you to a better understanding of their needs. Follow Todd Cohen advice and ask yourself a question: “What is motivating your customer to back away from a commitment? Can you address those needs?”


Return on investment

Return on investment skills combines the use of all other skills. It’s about maximizing sales culture environment and activities that create new value like innovation, new product, service development and sustainability of long term customer relationships.


Intelligence is a vital combination of common sense with a healthy quantity of knowledge that leads to make solid business decisions.

Intelligent salespeople understand the components of a sales cycle and are able to read all the signs during a sales campaign. They also understand the competition, industry and economy.

See the big picture

If you focus on making a sale you will make a sale and then you’ll be done. But if you focus on a customer, chances are you’ll gain a lifetime customer. By taking care of relationships with customers you see the bigger picture. You’re able to look beyond one deal, years after that. It’s a long–term sales strategy.

Become a thought leader

Lack of knowledge is your weak point, while in fact it should be your power. Have at your fingertips what’s going on in your customer’s industry. Seek for information, be up to date and familiar with the trends. This way you’ll become the person that others come to for advice. According to Todd:

You must sell with a perspective of your industry. Be able to talk intelligently about where your customer’s industry is going, about internet developments and chances that are likely to occur.

Desire to educate your customers

Compared to you, your customers probably know very little about your product. Also, they usually don’t understand half of its features. So you might need to explain everything to them like they were 12. And sometimes like they were 6 – which is totally fine. And what’s the better way to do it if not through the compelling story?

Commitment to career learning

It’s pretty easy to feel you’re the best, when you don’t have the knowledge to see the mistakes you make. But the more we learn, the more we understand how much more is left to learn. We never know everything. Keep an open mind, constantly learn new things and develop new skills. Learning is the key to grow in this industry.

Practice your craft until you master it

It’s not enough to know all these sales skills. You need to constantly train them. Successful salespeople practised for years and they got to the point when they use many of the skills without even thinking about it. You can get to this point too.

Practice your craft until you master it. Just like they did.

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